~ Archive for Baseball ~

Opening Day 2004 Non-US born Players in Major League Baseball


In a recent press release that was picked up by some news outlets, Major League Baseball called attention to its swelling ranks of international players. As in past years, in the major leagues Dominicans (79) represent by far the greatest number of non-US born players, followed by Venezuela (45) and the US-born-but-not-on-the-mainland case of Puerto Rico (36). These numbers only consider the 25-man roster, not the 40-man roster, so I suspect that they under-represent the numbers of non-US born players on overall major league rosters. These numbers also clearly do not reflect ethnicity, merely place of birth. MLB today is a much more international, and especially latino, environment than these official numbers indicate.

As follows are the non-US born players on Opening Day 2004, listed by place of origin with team affiliation as of April 2004 (courtesy of Major League Baseball):

Aruba (1)
Sidney Ponson, Baltimore
Australia (4)
Grant Balfour, Minnesota
Trent Durrington, Milwaukee
Damian Moss, Tampa Bay
Brad Thomas, Minnesota
Canada (11)
Jason Bay, Pittsburgh
Rheal Cormier, Philadelphia
Ryan Dempster, Chicago (NL)
Eric Gagne, Los Angeles
Aaron Guiel, Kansas City
Corey Koskie, Minnesota
Simon Pond, Toronto
Paul Quantrill, New York (AL)
Matt Stairs, Kansas City
Larry Walker, Colorado
Jeff Zimmerman, Texas
Colombia (3)
Jolbert Cabrera, Seattle
Orlando Cabrera, Montreal
Edgar Renteria, St. Louis
Cuba (9)
Danys Baez, Tampa Bay
Jose Contreras, New York (AL)
Adrian Hernandez, Milwaukee
Livan Hernandez, Montreal
Orlando Hernandez, New York (AL)
Eli Marrero, Atlanta
Vladimir Nunez, Colorado
Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore
Alex Sanchez, Detroit
Curacao (2)
Andruw Jones, Atlanta
Randall Simon, Pittsburgh
Dominican Republic (79)
Jose Acevedo, Cincinnati
Antonio Alfonseca, Atlanta
Carlos Almanzar, Texas
Miguel Asencio, Kansas City
Miguel Batista, Toronto
Tony Batista, Montreal
Danny Bautista, Arizona
Jose Bautista, Baltimore
Adrian Beltre, Los Angeles
Armando Benitez, Florida
Joaquin Benoit, Texas
Angel Berroa, Kansas City
Luis Castillo, Florida
Bartolo Colon, Anaheim
Francisco Cordero, Texas
Juan Cruz, Atlanta
Valerio De Los Santos, Toronto
Jorge De Paula, New York (AL)
Octavio Dotel, Houston
Juan Encarnacion, Los Angeles
Leo Estrella, San Francisco
Pedro Feliz, San Francisco
Julio Franco, Atlanta
Rafael Furcal, Atlanta
Reynaldo Garcia, Boston
Esteban German, Oakland
Vladimir Guerrero, Anaheim
Jose Guillen, Anaheim
Cristian Guzman, Minnesota
Felix Heredia, New York (AL)
Runelvys Hernandez, Kansas City
D’Angelo Jimenez, Cincinnati
Jose Jimenez, Cleveland
Jose Lima, Los Angeles
Aquilino Lopez, Toronto
Mendy Lopez, Kansas City
Julio Lugo, Tampa Bay
Hector Luna, St. Louis
Damaso Marte, Chicago (AL)
Pedro Martinez, Boston
Julio Mateo, Seattle
Jose Mesa, Pittsburgh
Raul Mondesi, Pittsburgh
Guillermo Mota, Los Angeles
Ramon Nivar, Texas
Abraham Nunez, Florida
Abraham Nunez, Pittsburgh
Jose Offerman, Minnesota
Miguel Olivo, Chicago (AL)
David Ortiz, Boston
Ramon Ortiz, Anaheim
Carlos Pena, Detroit
Wily Mo Pena, Cincinnati
Neifi Perez, San Francisco
Odalis Perez, Los Angeles
Timo Perez, Chicago (AL)
Placido Polanco, Philadelphia
Albert Pujols, St. Louis
Aramis Ramirez, Chicago (NL)
Manny Ramirez, Boston
Jose Reyes, New York (NL)
Fernando Rodney, Detroit
Felix Rodriguez, San Francisco
Duaner Sanchez, Los Angeles
Alfonso Soriano, Texas
Rafael Soriano, Seattle
Jorge Sosa, Tampa Bay
Sammy Sosa, Chicago (NL)
Julian Tavarez, St. Louis
Miguel Tejada, Baltimore
Amaury Telemaco, Philadelphia
Salomon Torres, Pittsburgh
Juan Uribe, Chicago (AL)
Jose Valverde, Arizona
Claudio Vargas, Montreal
Jose Vizcaino, Houston
Luis Vizcaino, Milwaukee
Enrique Wilson, New York (AL)
Esteban Yan, Detroit
Japan (10)
Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Seattle
Kazuhisa Ishii, Los Angeles
Hideki Matsui, New York (AL)
Kazuo Matsui, New York (NL)
Hideo Nomo, Los Angeles
Tomo Ohka, Montreal
Akinori Otsuka, San Diego
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
So Taguchi, St. Louis
Shingo Takatsu, Chicago (AL)
Korea (4)
Hee Seop Choi, Florida
Byung-Hyun Kim, Boston
Sun Woo Kim, Montreal
Chan Ho Park, Texas
Mexico (16)
Luis Ayala, Montreal
Vinny Castilla, Colorado
Juan Castro, Cincinnati
Humberto Cota, Pittsburgh
Elmer Dessens, Arizona
Erubiel Durazo, Oakland
Karim Garcia, New York (NL)
Esteban Loaiza, Chicago (AL)
Rodrigo Lopez, Baltimore
Miguel Ojeda, San Diego
Antonio Osuna, San Diego
Oliver Perez, Pittsburgh
Dennys Reyes, Kansas City
Ricardo Rincon, Oakland
Ismael Valdes, San Diego
Oscar Villarreal, Arizona
Nicaragua (1)
Vicente Padilla, Philadelphia
Panama (6)
Einar Diaz, Montreal
Carlos Lee, Chicago (AL)
Jose Macias, Chicago (NL)
Ramiro Mendoza, Boston
Mariano Rivera, New York (AL)
Olmedo Saenz, Los Angeles
Puerto Rico (36)
Roberto Alomar, Arizona
Sandy Alomar, Jr., Chicago (AL)
Carlos Baerga, Arizona
Carlos Beltran, Kansas City
Enrique Calero, St. Louis
Ramon Castro, Florida
Alex Cintron, Arizona
Alex Cora, Los Angeles
Wil Cordero, Florida
Cesar Crespo, Boston
Jose Cruz, Jr., Tampa Bay
Carlos Delgado, Toronto
Juan Gonzalez, Kansas City
Jose Hernandez, Los Angeles
Roberto Hernandez, Philadelphia
Ricky Ledee, Philadelphia
Javier Lopez, Colorado
Javy Lopez, Baltimore
Luis Lopez, Baltimore
Mike Lowell, Florida
Luis Matos, Baltimore
Bengie Molina, Anaheim
Jose Molina, Anaheim
Joel Pineiro, Seattle
Jorge Posada, New York (AL)
Ivan Rodriguez, Detroit
J.C. Romero, Minnesota
Rey Sanchez, Tampa Bay
Benito Santiago, Kansas City
Ruben Sierra, New York (AL)
Javier Valentin, Cincinnati
Jose Valentin, Chicago (AL)
Javier Vazquez, New York (AL)
Ramon Vazquez, San Diego
Jose Vidro, Montreal
Bernie Williams, New York (AL)
Venezuela (45)
Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia
Edgardo Alfonzo, San Francisco
Wilson Alvarez, Los Angeles
Tony Armas, Jr., Montreal
Rafael Betancourt, Cleveland
Henry Blanco, Minnesota
Miguel Cairo, New York (AL)
Miguel Cabrera, Florida
Jose Castillo, Pittsburgh
Roger Cedeno, St. Louis
Raul Chavez, Houston
Omar Daal, Baltimore
Alexander Escobar, Cleveland
Kelvim Escobar, Anaheim
Freddy Garcia, Seattle
Alex Gonzalez, Florida
Jeremi Gonzalez, Tampa Bay
Luis Gonzalez, Colorado
Carlos Guillen, Detroit
Ramon Hernandez, San Diego
Richard Hidalgo, Houston
Omar Infante, Detroit
Cesar Izturis, Los Angeles
Jorge Julio, Baltimore
Anderson Machado, Philadelphia
Victor Martinez, Cleveland
Melvin Mora, Baltimore
Ober Moreno, New York (NL)
Ray Olmedo, Cincinnati
Magglio Ordonez, Chicago (AL)
Eddie Perez, Atlanta
Tomas Perez, Philadelphia
Rene Reyes, Colorado
Juan Rincon, Minnesota
Luis Rivas, Minnesota
Juan Rivera, Montreal
Francisco Rodriguez, Anaheim
Johan Santana, Minnesota
Marco Scutaro, Oakland
Carlos Silva, Minnesota
Yorvit Torrealba, San Francisco
Lino Urdaneta, Detroit
Omar Vizquel, Cleveland
Carlos Zambrano, Chicago (NL)
Victor Zambrano, Tampa Bay

Nomar Garciaparra’s Nationality


Since a good number of visitors to this blog actually get here trying to find out what Nomar Garciaparra’s nationality is, it seems appropriate to just give people what they want, just this once. Though I guess Google and other search engines send people here because of this piece I wrote earlier this year on Latin America and baseball.

Nomar is an uncommon name. Certainly a lot less common than Ramon, which is Nomar backwards. Nomar Garciaparra may be the only Nomar around. Nomar is actually his middle name — his first name is Anthony.

Nomar was born in Whittier, California and grew up in Southern California. He is of Mexican-American descent. He attended Georgia Tech where he excelled in baseball. Here is Nomar’s official Red Sox bio.

With the Red Sox in the playoffs and on national television, the number of Google entries for Nomar + Garciaparra + Nationality have gone through the roof. Fascinating to see how many baseball viewers are interested in Nomar’s origins.

Latin American baseball — the future of the Major Leagues


In Sunday’s New York Times (13 April 2003), Rafael Hermoso describes how former Texas Rangers’ pitcher Edwin Correa is trying to “salvage Puerto Rican baseball” and create a challenging yet nurturing environment for budding young Puerto Rican baseball players in the new Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Apart from documenting Correa’s valiant and interesting initiative to teach kids discipline in a combined baseball-academic environment, most of Hermoso’s article focuses on the perceived decline of Puerto Rican baseball in the face of stiff competition from the Dominican Republic, in particular.

I applaud Correa’s efforts and Hermoso for giving a short yet rich account of the new Academy and some of the issues, but I do not think that Puerto Rico is in fact in a baseball decline, and I think that the impact of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Mexico and Colombia will only continue to grow, and the power and prestige of Latin American players within the major leagues will only become more enhanced with time. If anything, Correa’s efforts should not be seen as a reaction to failure, but a visionary effort to up the ante in terms of Latin American baseball. I believe that time will show that Correa is ahead of the curve in terms of understanding the future of Major League Baseball.

There are some fascinating threads that Hermoso’s story touches upon that I wanted to chat about — mostly stemming from the fact that the Latin American presence within MLB is one of the most obvious yet most generally under-noticed factors in baseball today. And there are important linkages between what is going in baseball and general patterns of economic development, demographics and culture in the Americas. Here are some things that occur to me as relevant and worth further thought and exploration:

First, it is important to point out the general disparity in formal education that exists among Major League Baseball players. While virtually all major league players from the U.S. have graduated from high school, and many have gone to university, these players sit side-by-side with incredible success stories and national heroes in their Latin American colleagues, but heroes and successes who more likely than not do not have very much formal education. There are plenty of anecdotes about MLB players from Latin America who are illiterate in spite of their millions. This in itself is meaningless, but taken more broadly is a strong indicator that education levels are not strong among Latin American players. But here is the true advantage of Puerto Rico over its Latin American counterparts/comrades — many players from Puerto Rico have indeed attended college in the U.S. (see Jorge Posada for example, born in Santurce and attended Calhoun Community College in Alabama) and most come from a more priveleged background than players from the DR, Venezuela, Panama and elsewhere. Informally, baseball insiders say that if Latin American baseball players were arranged hierarchically in order of their level of education, Puerto Rico would be at the top and the Dominican Republic at the bottom, with Mexico, Panama, Venezuela and the others in between. From the point of view of trying to build and manage a team, it is no small feat to meld a group of players made up of graduates of leading U.S. colleges, high school standouts who have forgone college to play ball and talented foreigners who speak little English and have in some cases not progressed beyond the fourth grade.

Most statistics about players’ nationality (or place of origin in the case of Puerto Rico) belie another demographic change in baseball that mirrors the increase in Latinos as a significant population in the U.S. There are more and more U.S. players of Latin descent in the big leagues. Nomar Garciaparra, Luis Gonzalez, Eric Chavez…the list is quite long. But things are not even always as clear cut as that — Manny Ramirez, for example, was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in New York. Alex Rodriguez was born in New York, but his family moved back to the Dominican Republic for four years as a child before they settled in Miami. This is the bi-national culture that so many U.S. Latinos (especially Dominicans) experience. And as Latino-Americanism grows, and more and more U.S. Latinos who defy simple categorization enter baseball, we will only see more and more superstars with incredibly strong childhood and adolescent ties to both the U.S. and their home countries or parents/grandparents’ home countries. This is not dissimilar to the same sentiments that first and second generation Irish, Polish, German and Italian U.S. citizens felt as they grew up, but the difference is that never has one new immigrant, general ethnic group become such a dominant force within any professional U.S. sport. Latin America (at least the 7 countries who make significant contributions to the major leagues), with its incredible talent, emotional fan base and attachment to the sport, will bring many new elements and an injection of enthusiasm, into “America’s pastime.” The dual allegiance that so many Latino players have will play out in philanthropy, business development, and cross-cultural exchange and awareness (like the multitudes of Dominican flag-waving gringos apparent at Fenway Park). But it also brings with it difficult challenges, like the educational gulf among baseball players.

Second, I wanted to touch upon some financial issues. Using numbers from the 2002 All Star Break, the overall players’ payroll in MLB hovered just over US$2 billion (to be more precise, the 25 man rosters totalled $2,024,677,522). Of the 849 players listed on 25 man rosters at that time, there were 74 Dominicans, 36 Venezuelans, 36 Puerto Ricans, 16 Mexicans, 11 Cubans and 6 Panamanians (and 33 from the U.S. of Latino heritage). All in all, there were 221 players from Latin America and the Caribbean or of Latino descent (or 26% of the the big leagues). Of the $2 billion total payroll, Dominicans earned $193 million, Puerto Ricans took home $122 million, and Venezuelans earned $69 million. It seems the Puerto Rican players are getting the best deal of the three largest Latin American groups — a per capita analysis shows that Dominicans earned $2.6 million per player, Venezuelans $1.9 million and Puerto Ricans more than $3.3 million per player.

So Puerto Ricans are considerably better off in terms of salaries –what about Hermoso’s point that there are many fewer Puerto Ricans than Dominicans in the majors? He points out that there are 38 Puerto Ricans on 2003 opening day rosters while 78 come from the Dominican Republic. Yes, there are twice as many Dominicans in MLB than Puerto Ricans, but the population of the Dominican Republic is also twice as big as that of Puerto Rico (~7.5 million to ~3.8 million). So the numbers of players are pretty representative, even if the salaries are not.

Third, Hermoso talks a bit about the relative states of economic development between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as the relative advantages/disadvantages that Puerto Ricans and Dominicans have vis-a-vis baseball. Interestingly enough, Hermoso seem to insinuate that better economic development is a disincentive to the formation of good baseball players (through comments by players such as these by Montreal Expos’ Javier Vazquez: “I think the kids in Puerto Rico have a lot of comforts,” said Vazquez, one of the handful of Puerto Rican stars to come out of the draft. “They have computers, PlayStations, all types of things like that. A kid has a life outside of sports.”)

The extension of this argument would be that poverty and the hunger for U.S. immigrant/citizen status are important motivations for Dominican youth to make it to the Bigs. This is a tricky and dangerous argument to make — on the one hand, it certainly is a boost to Major League teams to reap the benefits of Dominican shortstops with soft fielding hands due to years of catching erratic and unpredictable bounces in less than ideal conditions, of pitchers like Pedro Martinez who originally honed his delivery with his sisters’ doll’s heads for lack of a ball, and of hitters to whom a baseball looks like a grapefruit because they are used to hitting a rock with a broom handle (think Pele and his skills learned playing with layers of balled-up socks made into a soccer ball). I guess the real question here in balancing economic development concerns with good baseball is how to make sure that future baseball youth keep the “eye of the tiger” while improving their lives with better education, and more creature comforts and “distractions.” (Of course, some pundits lament the “softness” of U.S. youth and the growing inclination to stay inside and eschew sports, but this seems to be a more general problem of globalization, bad diets and video games.)

But the best argument against the one that says that harsh conditions and good baseball go hand-in-hand may come from the overall numbers of U.S. players in MLB — most major league players were born and raised in the U.S., and the vast majority of them attended at least high school, if not college as well. This in itself would be a fine testament to Edwin Correa’s goal to combine solid academics with solid baseball in one positive package for the development of young Puerto Ricans, and one that should be lauded.

Correa’s actions should make MLB and its franchises stand up and take notice to monitor the success of the Puerto Rico Academy (and it is a good sign that Sandy Alderson has offered some support after an initial reluctance) for the future of baseball academies in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela — these academies’ current non-baseball offerings of rudimentary English, basic etiquette and how to be a team player that the most advanced of MLB clubs like the Oakland Athletics have implemented are a far cry from the kind of system that Correa seems to be implementing.

Finally, Hermoso’s highlights from an interview with Tony Bernazard, now special assistant to Players Union chief Donald Fehr, really point to some of the big issues on the table for MLB as it considers internationalization of the draft, possible expansion of the League abroad, the growing dominance of Latin American players and the need to reach out to the U.S. Latino fan base. The institution of an international draft will have huge repurcussions for the way that non-U.S. citizens end up in the major leagues. It should have a hugely positive impact on the system of buscones (scouts) that plagues current Latin American recruitment. And it will mean a lot more investment into the Latin American baseball academies. But how will it impact the Dominican summer leagues, in which Latin American prospects compete with one another for a coveted spot in the U.S. minors. Some of this is linked to U.S. immigration policy, which limits the number of Visas that each team can request — what is certain is that there is a whole series of issues to be unravelled here.

The question of why Major League clubs don’t do more to tap into the Latino fan base in their cities is one that I have wondered about for some time. It is good to see that Peter Gammons picks up this theme in his April 14 column. Given the real passion and baseball knowledge that lies at the core of much of the U.S. Latino population, maybe MLB should take a page out of Major League Soccer’s success at bringing in the Latino community to games across the U.S.

With the extremely positive reception (and results) of the Montreal Expos’ first homestand in San Juan, I think we will see more and more attention paid to Puerto Rican, and Latin American, baseball in the near future. Which is only appropriate, because Latin America is the key to much of the future of Major League Baseball in the longer term.

The project carcasses that litter the ICT-Dev landscape


Several years ago my colleague Carlos Osorio remarked upon a feature of the international development technology landscape that is even more apparent today than it was then, but still does not seem to be acknowledged by the development community at-large.

Carlos pointed out that just as most Web businesses had turned out to be failures, in all likelihood, most “e-projects” in the public sphere (e-government or e-development projects) would also turn out to be misconceived as well.

Carlos was right. Most ICT projects have not been successes — any ICT for Development practitioner knows that, and that is the real buzz in the hallways and dinners that surround conferences and workshops. Whether an e-development project is putting computers in secondary schools, establishing telecenters, or creating transparency in government operations, it is an open secret that failure is the general result. But why does the funding for bad projects still flow? Not to mention bad project design? And why doesn’t the development community seem to learn from its mistakes?

Here are a few reasons:

1) Most e-development projects don’t have clear objectives. The “if we build it, they will come” mentality still dominates technology projects. The “wow” factor still hasn’t gone away, and the technology remains the ends rather than the means of many projects. Nowhere is this more apparent than in ICT/education projects, where the overwhelming focus is almost always on buying computers, and not on teacher training, curriculum design or actually improving learning.

2) Without clear objectives, it isn’t clear how to measure results. There are very few ex ante attempts to figure out what the point of ICT projects should be, let alone to quantify the results. In the end, this means a lot of anecdote and not much analysis. Or even material to analyze.

3) Bad feedback loops. Development organizations are not effective nor timely in learning from mistakes and incorporating those lessons into new project design or implementation. As my colleague Ethan Zuckerman has pointed out on numerous occasions, there is a real need in the development profession to be able to identify failure and walk away from bad projects (a trait more often found in the programming community). But because of the way that project pipelines and lending portfolios operate, projects that are receiving funding now most likely were designed 2 or so years ago — in the meantime, needs have most likely changed, we’ve seen the flaws in the project design, and the project is doomed to failure.

4) Technology isn’t the problematic part of most ICT for Development projects — bad management, training, analysis, politics and bureaucracy are the real culprits. But since we still don’t deal too well with these age-old challenges, even more emphasis is placed on the technology and vague hopes that it be a tool for positive change all by itself.

And here is why all this matters:

1) International development projects by-and-large use limited, public funds to keep them going. The nature of the funding means that development money that goes toward technology is not going toward health, education, housing or other projects. The imperative of these public funds to be spent responsible is essential.

2) Technology for many parts of the world is a one-shot deal. If major investments are being made in computers in a developing country, even if the use of those computers turns out to be a disaster, it is not so likely that another round of funding will come through — both the scarce nature of the funds available and the issues surrounding technology lock-in (particularly a concern in e-government projects) limit more technology investment for a long time.

3) We are in danger of squandering a major opportunity to leverage the excitement over ICTs to create real positive change. The window is rapidly closing, but there is still time to use the major technology projects to pry open and make progress on even more difficult issues such as educational reform, transparency/corruption, foreign direct investment or the spread of democracy. Conversations about technology inevitably lead to discussions about the intractable problems of development. I always thought that as a result, technology should open the door for major change and reform elsewhere. But unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.

4) Technology is expensive. But sometimes technologies that are simpler than computers may be more effective at solving the problem (if the real problem is identified). The problem with holding a hammer is that everything looks like a nail. The problem with holding a computer is that every problem can be solved with word processing software and the Internet. But that just isn’t true. Sometimes a radio, a cellphone, or a pad of paper might do a much better job.

Six years ago, there was a lot of excitement about how ICTs were going to change the field of international development. A lot of that was hype, but it also was a breath of fresh air in a tired, bureaucratic profession.

I want to find a way to bring that enthusiasm back. And to focus more on results than on the hype.

If we could be more open and honest about the failures of ICT for Development, and try to understand them, it isn’t too late to try to change the course.

What pop culture can do for the World


There are a few distinct campaigns in international development that I admire for having injected badly needed energy and innovation into intractable policy discussions.

First, the International Labour Organization has shown real spunk and creativity in forging an alliance with the F

Is the New Economy really the answer?


I somewhat belatedly read the Jan/Feb issue of the Atlantic Monthly and its excellent survey on “The Real State of the Union,” put together in partnership with the New America Foundation to explore some of the biggest challenges that the U.S. is facing.  I was struck by the occasionally radical and consistently non-traditional thinking that marked all of the articles in the survey.  The New America Foundation is clearly a place to watch.

One piece that really caught my eye was David Friedman‘s “One-Dimensional Growth ,” which lays out the argument that in the euphoria for all things technological during the past few decades, much of the U.S. has become overly dependent on investment and incentives relating to the New Economy.  Friedman points out that productivity gains in the 1990s were not as great as originally thought, and that the dependence on New Economy sectors has implications for income inequality, housing prices and private debt.  In the interest of job creation, greater long term economic stability and economic diversification, Friedman argues that industrial policies need to be put in place that strengthen growth of traditional industries, and move away from the New Economy.

The implication for the developing countries is something that should give pause to a lot of “progressive” thinking in the developing world — that is, the desire of so many leaders in developing coutnries (and in the international development community as well) to create “knowledge industries” that will catapult their economies into the Information Age and create significant numbers of jobs.

Friedman’s arguments would suggest that such an emphasis is misplaced — that instead of focusing on call centers and IT-enabled services, that developing countries should use IT to improve their existing industries.  Perhaps textiles and light industry are not as sexy as offshore programming or financial services, but shoring up what they have may be a better strategy than trying to overcome all the hurdles needed to create a world-class knowledge industry from scratch.  A balanced approach that targets realistic adoption of IT into the particular situation of each country while identifying existing sources of competitive advantage makes sense.

And in the long term, if the evidence that Friedman presents is relevant, then countries that continue to rely upon a diversified economic base, rather than putting all their eggs in the IT basket, may find that their efforts to boost employment, a perennial development challenge, are more fortified.  The diversification argument, a basic tenet of good financial planning, resonates deeply. 

Rather than continuing to believe the lingering hype of how great IT was for the U.S. in the 1990s, and extolling the tremendous virtues of IT for everyone else as well, the development community should take a harder look at what the real experience has been in the U.S., and transmit those lessons in the form of responsible advice and projects in the developing world.  And leaders in the developing world should feel no need to adopt the very same snobbery towards traditional industry and blue collar work that Friedman so aptly identifies as one root cause of our one-dimensionality in the U.S.

The cutting edge of ICTs for international change


My colleague Jim Moore has done a great job in his most recent piece at capturing some of the flavor of how the Internet has made an impact globally in linking voices and views that could never before have been heard in such force.  The sociology and politics of how the Internet can strengthen civil society — the story behind the Second Superpower story — are fascinating.  We can only hope that this kind of trend that Jim points out indeed overshadows and counteracts the ignorance and apathy that seem so rampant these days.

This strand of thinking is one of the things that is needed more within the international development community — instead of fixating on numbers of Internet connections and on what consulting firm is going to design what “e-Strategy,” it is much more useful and important to figure out how people are using the new technologies and how that use is re-shaping the world.

With such powerful geo-political shifts going on right now, the political and sociological impacts of the technology need to be acknowledged and better understood.  And the international development agenda needs to be reworked accordingly.


This Blog is meant to be an experiment in which I try to share some of my thoughts on various issues.

This Blog


Geoffrey Kirkman is a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. His work focuses on fostering innovative and interesting ways to think about international affairs. He currently thinks about linkages between technology, international development and baseball. You can find more information about him here.

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